So about a month or two ago I had a genius idea. I bought a camper van. The theory being, I can go and drive somewhere, have an adventure and… start spewing my folksy running wisdom upon you poor unsuspecting people again.
Next step, what kind of adventures will help me to create some folksy running wisdom? Well there is only one answer really. Parkrun tourism! Where to tour? Ask Twitter!
That is how I found myself lying in bed on a Saturday morning on the edge of Greenham Common just outside a car park to big for my van to fit. Having driven there late on a Friday night I woke up with the sun to start my blog.
Lets be honest here, I could big myself up and say I found the place and woke to welcoming crowds of runners enthusiastically greeting me as they made their way to the start line but…. I would be lying. The truth is I was at completely the wrong place. Don’t get me wrong, it was peaceful and quiet and I had a wonderful nights sleep but when it got to 8 and there were no marshals cars arriving I began to fear something was wrong. I got dressed and went for a wander through some beautiful woodland. No runners, not even a sniff of deep heat. I began to panic.
Eventually I came across a couple walking their dog and asked if this was the control tower car park? “Oh no” they says “that’s about 10 mins down the road”. Suitably horrified I ran back to the van and made my way to the correct place.
One of the things I love about parkrun is the familiar ritualistic almost religious routine of it. Turning into the car park I knew I had the right venue. Here were the Lycra clad ladies and semi serious looking gents jogging and stretching, warming up for some serious running. The completely social runners grouped themselves in little packs of 4 or 5 chatting and planning post run drinks and bacon butties. Here and there were the lone figures like myself, hovering waiting for 9am and the great surge at the start. Everywhere were declarations of races run blazoned across chests, seasoned with a generous sprinkling of red and black landmark T-shirts. It’s like a gathering of the tribes and to me it just feels right.
I was welcomed by a very nice lady who showed me where I could leave my gear and, then I joined the expanding band of run lovers ready for another 5k.
The course was a 1 lap circuit of heathland run on gravel track. I don’t think I have ever done a 1 lap parkrun before and actually it was odd. I am used to the intermingling of paces towards the end of parkrun, where you lap people and catch up those who went out too fast at the same time. There was none of that at Newbury and consequently the whole course felt a lot less crowded, you spent most of the run with people of a similar pace and I think that drove me on a bit, it was certainly my fastest parkrun for a while. What was disconcerting, and it would be different if I actually knew the course was that there were no visual landmarks, it just didn’t seem to be easy to split it up in my head. My usual parkrun is 3 laps and each lap is a marker in it’s own right. I know the second one is the hardest and the last one you speed up for because you are so keen to get it over and done with. My only guide was my watch to keep me on track.
Run done I thanked the race director and headed back to the van. This had been a solo adventure and I didn’t mind. It started me thinking about my relationship with parkrun in general. Now you didn’t think you were going to get away without my platitudinous bullcrap at all did you?
Parkrun is familiar wherever you go and as welcoming as you want it to be and, once you are a parkrunner you always belong . I remember walking down a hill towards a lake on my first ever parkrun not sure if I should really be there. Halfway round I realised everyone else was there for the same reason, to run. Like today I was on my own and I ran without worrying about anyone else, something I have not done for a very long time. When I started I was on a mission and it was all about the time, what I realised today is that I have changed my parkrun tribe. At home parkrun is all about the social side, the meeting friends and the coffee and bacon butties after. Today it felt good to visit the past and see just where I was and stagger over the line breathless.
A final thought. I know parkrun for me is social because when I thought of the people I consider friends every single one of them parkruns. Most people I hang out with now I met through parkrun, and those I didn’t meet through parkrun have started running parkrun independently. I am a parkrun person who likes parkrun people.
Oh and Newbury parkrun……..
Thanks for the inspiration.